The consultation is upon us and, in the words of the guardian last week, it is 'drip[ping] with the embarrassment of the officials who'd been ordered to write it'. The tellingly thin document is titled 'Options for dealing with Squatters', and briefly outlines five different positions the government could take in regards to dealing with squatters. We have until October to challenge the consultation's proposals of criminalisation: encouranging as broad a range of groups and individuals to respond to the government and highlight the different areas on which these legislative changes will be negatively felt. The SQUASH blog has already begun to draw together some of the different fields that a criminalisation of squatting would impact on, and at this stage it is crucial to recognise the extent of the ramifications of the proposed legislation. Not only will it push vulnerable people into further destitution, it removes a fundamental right to protest, further corrodes tenants rights, and strips artists and musicians of one of the few means by which they can continue working in a time of austerity and funding cuts. The list continues. We need action from all the groups affected, and also from those who can draw the dots between them. 'Action' because we need to think beyond the limited scope that the consultation offers us to block this legislation. As John Stuart pushed in the meeting last week at the House of Commons, the consultation process is well within the government's comfort zone and they are more than capable of welcoming all the well researched, intelligent responses, garnering some legitimacy by accepting them all, and then just ignoring it. It is imperative that we make a scene outside the dusty halls of Parliament, take the story through the government's comfort zone and stir it up.
So, we need a broad and thorough response challenging the proposed criminalisation via the official avenue of the consultation process; but cruicially we also need squatters, ex-squatters, and all the parties that know the value of squatting to bring the consultation to life and vividly demonstrate that value, so that the opposition cannot simply be dismissed.
(The consultation can be accessed here, and over the next couple of weeks SQUASH will be putting together some guidance to help people respond constructively to the consultation.)